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Michael Phillips: Why the stink of that bad, bad iPad ad won't go away

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Terrible, soul-sucking commercials get written, made and, by the public, rejected all the time. This one is different.

Apple’s “Crush” commercial, unveiled last week and no longer scheduled to air on TV in America because people just truly, madly, deeply hated it, constitutes something larger than a miss, or a flub. Contrary to the walkback last week by Apple marketing communications vice president Tor Myhren — “We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry” — the commercial for the new iPad Pro hit a much tougher mark by being both terrible and honest about Apple’s vision of the future.

Take the 60 seconds to see it (it’s all over the place, including YouTube), just to see how its images hit you. Ripping off a more benign 16-year-old commercial for a long-gone LG smartphone, as well as countless destruct-o videos online, “Crush” opens on a pile of familiar analog artifacts inside a hydraulic press. A turntable. A metronome. A trumpet. An Angry Bird. A stress ball with big eyes, ready to pop.

The machine comes to life, bringing death to the artifacts. Emerging from the rubble: the iPad Pro, thinnest ever, capable of doing what all that other junk used to do, but (this part isn’t in the ad) with a little help from generative artificial intelligence embedded within the wee chip inside the iPad Pro’s wee frame.

Apple has a huge if tardy interest in the soothingly inoffensive phrase “generative AI.” Generative AI subsists on the scraping and gathering of existing work online, rarely with any compensation for whoever made the stuff in the first place. This feeds the software in order to “train” it and make its creative or practical results seem if not human, then humanoid.

The tech superpower was late boarding this barely regulated bullet train. But the iPad Pro, as equity analyst Dan Ives said on Bloomberg Television May 11, marks the the first step in Apple’s hoped-for “AI-driven supercycle” of product upgrades.

 

I talked with Matt Zoller Seitz, who lives in Dallas, about the lingering implications of the “Crush” ad and Apple’s focus on generative AI. He wrote beautifully on the subject for rogerebert.com, where he is editor at large, in addition to being the TV critic for New York Magazine and vulture.com.

The following has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Matt, were you satisfied with Apple’s official apology for the “Crush” ad?

A: Let’s just say I would’ve appreciated a more sincere and detailed apology for the sheer outrageousness of the offense that ad committed against art, and artists. It was more like, “Our bad.” Which to me is nearly as offensive as the ad itself.

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